HARARE – Hoteliers in Vumba may have to thank President Robert Mugabe for the repairs done to the road linking the mountainous city of Mutare to this internationally-acclaimed holiday destination.
Word has it that the Zanu PF leader is scheduled to visit the Vumba area soon to officially commission Manicaland State University — situated about eight kilometres along Vumba Road, from the eastern border city.
Mugabe’s visit, it is being said, has resulted in the city fathers, along with the department of Roads in the ministry of Infrastructural Development, doing everything in their powers to ensure that resources are found to rehabilitate the pothole-riddled road.
As if to confirm this, the repairs did not go very far beyond the turn-off to the State-run university: The other part of the road to Burma Valley is still a hazard to motorists owing to potholes, including the part that stretches westward from the Burma Valley turn-off into Vumba resorts.
City fathers in Mutare claim it is not their responsibility to go beyond the area that has been repaired, saying Mutare Rural District Council and the ministry of Infrastructural Development should also do their part.
The Vumba region has been complaining of poor road infrastructure, which has dented its status as a world-class tourist destination.
Although it boasts of an overabundance of attractions that include Mt Inyangani, Mtarazi Falls through the Vumba, Chimanimani rocky mountain range to Chirinda Forest in Chipinge, the area has trailed behind other isolated tourist destinations such as the Victoria Falls owing to the poor transport infrastructure.
Beyond bad roads, the region has no air connectivity, which makes it unattractive to many tourists who would not have enough time on their hands for road travel and the rigours of negotiating the many police blocks on Zimbabwe’s roads.
As is becoming the norm — long neglected roads are getting attention whenever the president schedules visits that require him to pass through these roads.
Hotel operators in Vumba have been calling on the ministry of Infrastructural Development to attend to the road for years as domestic and foreign tourists were shunning the destination due to the poor state of the roads.
Efforts by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority — the principal tourism marketing arm of government — to get the other arms of government to attend to the road could not yield any positive results.
Operators in this area now feel relieved that at least something was now being done to rehabilitate the road.
They remain skeptical, however, on whether it was sheer coincidence that this has happened when Mugabe is about to visit the area to commission the university.
White Horse Inn co-director Frank Marembo said all hotel operators in the area were excited by the development and were expecting that more people would resume their visits to the area now that the road is in a better state.
“Of late, people were beginning to shun the Vumba citing bad roads as one of their reasons and we all are hoping that with that impediment removed we will get an increase in tourist traffic,” said Marembo.
Inns of Zimbabwe official Gordon Addams said: “We are grateful that the road is being resurfaced after so many years of lobbying to make the journey to the Vumba as enjoyable as the product the country is offering. We hope this will extend to all our tourist attractions across the Eastern Highlands”.